Legal Magazine

“Look Before You Lock” to Avoid Child Deaths in Missouri

Posted on the 25 June 2014 by Caglelawfirm @ZCagle

An average of 38 children die every year from being left unattended in a vehicle. Far too many children have been inadvertently forgotten in hot vehicles or have gotten in to a vehicle on their own. Vehicular heat stroke tragedies change the lives of parents, families and communities forever. This month, two recent tragedies have made national news.

Child Dies After Being Left in Hot Car in Georgia

Last week’s incident in Cobb County, Georgia involving a 22- month old child has received national media attention. According to initial reports, the father forgot to drop the child off at daycare, drive to work around 9 a.m. and left the baby in the car. It wasn’t until the father looked into the backseat and saw the child still strapped in the backseat during his drive home from work eight hours later that he reportedly realized the child had been in the car all day. Temperatures had topped 90 degrees that Wednesday afternoon and it is estimated that the temperatures in the car could have been as high as 130-140 degrees in a few hours.

Recent articles state their are further questions of the father in Cobb County, however, no elaboration on what kinds of questions were still pending. As well, it stated that the detectives and medical examiner are still working together to confirm the manner and cause of death. In both of the tragedies below, authorities grapple with the type of criminal charges are applicable. Reading this tragic stories over the last few years, it has become evident that there is a dilemma for law enforcement and the criminal charges are usually nothing in comparison to the personal judgment and guilt each of these parent feels after losing their child.

One New York county district attorney was quoted regarding the difficulty of the situation, “Difficulty we have in a case like this is it invokes anger, outrage from people who just can’t believe it could happen and it’s a situation that we have to look at very carefully and if a crime has been committed we’ll make the determination to prosecute or not”.

New York Child’s Death

The week before, a 15- month old girl  died after she was left unattended in a car in Dolgeville, New York While temperatures were in the low 70′s for that region, the temperatures in a vehicle can exceed tolerable levels for a human being or an animal.

KidsAndCars.org

We are active supporters of KidsAndCars.org, a non profit group child safety organization. They report that on average, 38 children die every year in heat-related deaths after being left inside motor vehicles.  A common question in most of the tragic deaths I have read about is “How could someone leave their child in the car and not know it?”  Unfortunately, it happens with tragic consequences.  According to KidsAndCars.org, it most often occurs when there is a change in routine. A common example of a parent/care giver leaving their child in the car can happen when a different parent or caregiver is supposed to take the child to daycare and they forget. Often, children fall asleep during the drive and become quiet. The driver can become involved in thinking about the things they have to do at work or get involved in phone conversations, get out of the car and go into work forgetting about the child strapped into their car seat.  After a few hours, the parent/caregiver may realize they forgot their child or as in the Georgia incident, not notice until they get into the car to go home. By then, it is too late.

Comprehending the Incomprehensible

The idea of harming your child as a parent is one of the most horrific ideas you can even contemplate.  As a parent/caregiver, you are innately protective and do everything in your power to protect and love your children. The idea that your child could be harmed or killed due to your action is really more than most parents can even wrap their mind around.  Of the average 38 deaths that happen a year, it is safe to say that in each incident the parent responsible for leaving their child in the car is forever scarred and haunted.  KidsAndCars.org is a child safety organization that promotes safety and advocates for safety legislation for automakers.  KidsAndCars.org is one of the few organizations that focuses on the hazards of car related injuries to children in non-highway/traffic types of conditions such as heat stroke, freezing, rollovers, back overs and loss of limb and life due to automatic windows. Their website is full of practical helpful suggestions for even the BEST parents.

Children are injured every year in tragic events such as heat stroke by being left unattended in automobiles. It is rare that a caregiver purposely leaves their child in the car. As mentioned, it usually happens as an error of memory or being distracted.  The idea of leaving one of my kids in the car to suffer and die is the material of my worst nightmare as it is to most parents.  But it can happen to the best of parents.  I blog about a lot of safety tips, but I actually save and print the KidsAndCars.org reminders.

Thinking this scenario could never possibly happen to you is one of the worst mistakes a parent can make.  In most of the tragedies I have read about, the parents never dreamed they could be responsible for harming their own child. Sleeplessness, stress and change of routine were all factors in  parents  inadvertently leaving their children in hot cars. Unfortunately, sleepiness, stress and disrupted routines are a daily part of parenting. As I have gotten involved with KidsAndCars.org and read exhaustive stories about these tragedies, it is rare that a parent purposely leaves their child in a dangerous situation. I would encourage you to read these stories before passing judgment.  Granted, each case has to be investigated to the fullest and the parents discussed in Georgia or New York have not been charged nor convicted.

Everyday, Practical Tips to Help the Best of Parents!

  •  Never leave children alone in or around cars; not even for a minute.
  • *Put something you’ll need like your cell phone, handbag, employee ID or brief case, etc, on the floor board in the backseat
  • Get in the habit of always opening the back door of your vehicle every time you reach your destination to make sure no child has been left behind.  This will soon become a habit.  It’s called “Look Before You Lock” campaign.
  • Keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s seat when it’s not occupied.  When the child is placed in the seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat. It’s a visual reminder that anytime the stuffed animal is up front you know the child is in he back seat in a child safety seat.
  • Make arrangements with your child’s day care center or babysitter that you will always call if your child will not be there on a particular day as scheduled
  • Keep vehicles locked at all times; even in the garage or driveway and always set your parking brake
  • Keys and openers should not be left within reach of children
  • When a child is missing, check vehicles and car trunks immediately
  • If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved. If they are hot or seem sick, get them out as quickly as possible. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately
  • Be especially careful about keeping children safe in and around cars during busy times, schedule changes and periods of crisis or holidays
  • User drive-thru services when available (restaurants, banks, pharmacies, dry cleaners, etc)
  • User your debit or credit car to pay for gas at the pump  KidsAndCars.org Safety Tips

At The Cagle Law Firm, we represent seriously injured victims of accidents including car accidents and truck accidents, however, promoting safety of everyone is a mission that we take seriously. Promoting child safety if of particular relevance as many of us in the firm have small children. The reason that we discuss such child tragedies as above is to promote awareness and reminders to all parents and care givers that this nightmare can happen to any of us.  Nothing is quite as tragic as the injury or death of a child–it is unnatural to all of us.

If you have been injured in a car accident or truck accident, you may need legal representation. Call 1(800) 685-3302 toll free or (314) 276-1681 locally for your free consultation


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